3 buildOn Students Receive Full Scholarship for Leadership

Research by Rayia Gaddy, senior at University Preparatory Academy

Every year, 95 percent of buildOn’s high school students graduate and go to college, and many are awarded scholarships. This year three amazing members in Detroit were recently awarded full-paid scholarships from the Sidney A. Ribeau President’s Leadership Academy (PLA), a leadership development program, to attend Bowling Green State University. Rayia Gaddy, Ivory Price and Leslie Potts have all been celebrated on regional and national news for their contribution of service, and deservingly so. We work with many high schools require 40 hours of community service for students to graduate. Just this school year Potts completed 155 hours of service, Gaddy knocked out 160 hours, and Price completed a whopping 462 hours of service! We are extremely proud of these young women who spent four years of their time after school and on the weekends making a difference in their city.

buildOn students have been receiving scholarships from PLA for years. Last year three of our members were scholars, and the year before that two were chosen out of the 25 students the program accepts each year. Gaddy interviewed Julie Ann Snyder, director of the academy, to investigate this trend. What she found was the PLA program attracts our members because it teaches students how to be servant leaders by engaging them in classes, workshops, experiential learning and community service activities. Both programs are service and service learning based and both voice the importance of an education. “When I heard of the Presidential Leadership Academy, it sounded like a program made for buildOn students,” Price says.

After speaking with Snyder, Gaddy learned that buildOn equips students with the leadership skills necessary for them to exceed and excel in the PLA program. Snyder told Gaddy that she and the other buildOn students were not targeted just because they are in buildOn, but they stood out because they understood the importance of serving others and were well-prepared to take on PLA’s leadership curriculum.

Learn more about these scholars:

Rayia Gaddy, senior at University Preparatory Academy
Gaddy was president of her buildOn group for three years, and recently interned at buildOn’s Michigan office for six weeks. She’s spent most of her free time doing service around the city, working everywhere from Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries, where she helped bring bookmobile to the city; to volunteering at nursing homes with Successful Alliance for Educating Talented Youth (S.A.F.E.T.Y). She was a student speaker at the annual buildOn Dinner in 2011, participated in a two-part segment of the Today Show, and was on a panel at the 2011 Education Nation in New York City.

Gaddy says being a part of buildOn has helped her grow her confidence and personal skills. “Before, I was really shy. But now I’m leading a group and there’s been a big change in myself. I don’t procrastinate because all of my actions have consequences. If you don’t get something done when you set up a service project, everything falls apart.” She wants to study Sociology because of her interest working with various groups of people. She also wants to be a lawyer who represents young people. “I see myself as an advocate for youth,” Gaddy says. “Adults forget about teens, but I want to be the voice for them.”

Ivory Price, Senior at Renaissance High School
Price is the Vice President of Community Service of her high school’s buildOn group, which has 60 members. She says she and her friends, who are officers of the group, possess a “fire and energy” for buildOn. “When we meet people that aren’t in buildOn, we ask, ‘Why aren’t you in buildOn?’’ And then they check it out and they love it, and it’s fun, and they keep on coming back.”

Being a part of the group has opened doors for Price because of all of the amazing people she’s met. She’s even been profiled on CNN for her commitment to service. Price said being in buildOn has helped her when applying for jobs and it’s given her a broader perspective on life. “It’s done so many things for me. During my projects, I’ve met people who own their own businesses, city officials – and they’re always so pleased to hear what we’re doing.”

Price wants to major in International Studies and Spanish. During her sophomore year, she went to Nicaragua to build a school and she fell in love with the Spanish language. After college, she hopes to work as a country ambassador for an international nonprofit that does mission trips and development. “I want to help people and see the world while doing it,” she says.

Leslie Potts, Senior at Renaissance High School
Potts served as President of her group for two years. “Every club tried to say that they’re like a family, but we’re like a real family,” Potts says. Her  school’s group places an emphasis on having senior members mentor the incoming freshman. Another reason buildOn is like a family to Potts is the members supported her when her father died of cancer in 2010. She says she was honored when buildOn’s President and CEO Jim Ziolkowski and all of Detroit’s buildOn staff attended the wake.

Pott’s favorite project was working at the YMCA’s Interim House at Camp Cavell in Lexington, Michigan. The camp brings women and children who have escaped domestic violence situations, and buildOn members volunteer as camp counselors for a week. “We give the moms a break,” Potts says. “A lot of them have never been to the beach, never heard of s’mores… And it’s emotional because these kids hint at what they’ve been through.”

Potts wrote her college essay about how buildOn taught her that Detroit isn’t the way the media portrays it. She’s learned there are positive things happening in the city through all of the service groups she’s worked with. She plans to study International Service in college and join the Peace Corps after graduation. “I love buildOn so much and I wouldn’t mind being an executive. I want to work for buildOn.”